Kissimmee, Fla., November. 18, 2016 – During a timeout early in Friday’s game between Xavier and Clemson in the Tire Pros Invitational, a 6-year-old boy came on to the court to compete in a shooting contest. The child thrilled the crowd at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex by making a layup, a shot from the free-throw line and a 3-pointer in 30 seconds. Several Xavier assistant coaches gave the child high-fives as he left the court to loud applause.
As exciting as that was, it turned out to be only the second-best shooting performance of the first half. The best was turned in by Xavier junior guard J.P. Macura, who made 9-of-12 shots from the floor and 5-of-6 from 3-point range before intermission, helping the Musketeers to a 41-32 halftime lead on the way to an 83-77 victory.
Macura’s 23 first-half points exceeded his career high of 20 points for an entire game. He cooled off considerably in the second half, but still finished with 28 points, five assists, four rebounds and three steals. He also made several key plays in the final five minutes that enabled Xavier (3-0) to hold off a late Clemson rally and advance to Sunday’s championship game.
“My teammates did a great job getting me the ball,” said Macura, who exceed his previous career high with 3:44 remaining in the first half. “I had all the confidence in the world when I was shooting.”
Clemson (3-1) battled back in the second half and pulled to as close as 63-60 with still more than six minutes left in the game. But Macura, who missed his first four shots in the second half, hit a 3-pointer with 2:11 to play that pushed the Musketeers’ lead back up to nine at 74-65. He also had two key rebounds and a long pass for an assist in the final two minutes.
“J.P. has the ability to score, and his teammates really wanted to find him,” Xavier coach Chris Mack said. “If you’re hot the way he was, it’s nice to know that he has unselfish teammates who look for him in transition. He had a huge game in the first half and made some big-time plays in the second half.”
While Macura led Xavier in scoring, he certainly wasn’t alone in providing an offensive spark. Trevon Bluiett scored 21 points, Edmond Sumner had 11 points and six assists, and Sean O’Mara scored 10 points on perfect 4-for-4 shooting from the field and 2-for-2 from the free-throw line. As a team, the Musketeers went 30-for-57 from the field (52.6 percent) and 9-of-21 from 3-point range (42.9 percent).
“They haven’t been shooting the ball as well this year, but they just came alive today,” Clemson coach Brad Brownell said. “Macura was unbelievable in the first half. We tried to do some things to take away some other guys, and he made us pay. They were very opportunistic. Whenever Xavier shoots the ball like that, they’re going to be hard to beat. You just have to tip your hat to them.”